Travel

October 23, 2015

The World of the VIP Concierge

One of the people making the super rich’s impossible travel dreams possible spills the beans

  • Written by Emily Eades

Chances are if you’re pulling in seven figures, you don’t have the time to be trawling through Skyscanner and TripAdvisor to book your summer holidays. Cue the transatlantic, travel concierge service, which curate personalised global experiences for the elite, and cater to their every whim around the clock. And when the world is a billionaire’s playground, whims are plentiful. We cornered a luxury travel specialist, who for the purposes of discretion will remain anonymous, to talk sex, drugs, art, and elephants.

Do the people behind ‘luxury concierge services’ have special training in how to deal with drug dealers, pimps and oligarchs?
Formal training would be futile. What you need to succeed is an impressive ‘black book.’ And that takes many years of experience, meeting people and of course ingenuity.

“We’re not easily shocked; we’ve seen and heard most things.”

If we were allowed a glimpse, who or what would we find in your black book?
My most important contacts are the ones that would otherwise be ‘off the grid’. These are experts in their field, highly connected individuals operating with the upmost discretion. They’ll only work with a very select group of people so first you need the right introductions then earning trust takes time.

What sort of experiences might you and your contacts deliver that a traditional agent couldn’t?
We have access to private gardens at the Taj Mahal for private dining; we can organise a Michelin starred dinner served at an otherwise closed section of The Great Wall Of China; we frequently shut down Chanel Paris for personal shopping trips. Or we might have someone who is in town for one night only, and wants a private tour of The Louvre – and we’ll be able to arrange that. Private jets are back in vogue right now too.

What other personal services or requests might you deal with?
Flying out prostitutes is very common, particularly with City and Finance boys. It’s very common for them to arrange ‘business trips’, then request ‘friends’ be flown out to join. We arrange these flights discreetly and always pay for them on separate credit cards.

How does it work in a country like Dubai if a client calls you up requesting a ‘girl’?
As long as girls have their passports on them, Sheiks can take as many as they want. I once saw a guy walking into a hotel lobby with seven hookers – it’s very easy to arrange over there.

“Flying out prostitutes is very common – we arrange these flights discreetly and always pay for them on separate credit cards.”

Have there been any requests that have been particularly difficult to deliver?
An extremely wealthy client in India requested an elephant arrive at sunset with a rare diamond – he had decided last minute to propose to his girlfriend. Given the short turn around, there was an initial moment of panic, but it turns out elephants are very easy to get hold of in India.

Of all your clients, who are the most demanding?
For celebrities, privacy is at the top of their priority list. So we’ll bring them into hotels through back doors, kitchens or via underground alleyways. For moneyed clients, it’s service they’re after – they require the absolute best, there’s no room for error. But of all clients, it’s bankers and finance boys that put in the most salubrious requests and are prone to throwing tantrums if things don’t go their way immediately.

“It turns out elephants are very easy to get hold of in India.”

Do clients use any specific codes when putting in requests for ‘extra services’?
No, they’re usually very direct. Or their people will be very direct.

Do you charge extra for special services like delivery of drugs or girls to a client, or is it considered part of the ‘package’?
No, there’s usually money built into a package to allow for most requests that come through. A lot of luxury travel companies operate membership models: members pay an annual fee, within which personal service requests might be included.

What happens if a client requests something morally reprehensible?
We’re not easily shocked; we’ve seen and heard most things. However, in my experience, internal teams deal with particularly deviant requests.

Say a client is in another country and a request comes through for a trunk of cocaine to be delivered to their suite, can you fix that?
Most celebrities will have their teams organise contraband requests. If a request does come through and I don’t have a direct contact on the ground, hotels often discreetly facilitate. I remember a request coming through from Vegas, we spoke with hotel concierge and within minutes a delivery guy was at the hotel room door. It transpired that he has a key card for every hotel lift in Vegas, and given the nod from a hotel, he’ll arrive through an allocated doorway and take a route without security cameras to deliver a selection of high quality goods direct to a room.

“We’re seeing a change in the type of experiences people want: they might fly EasyJet, but then splash out on a six-figure villa.”

If we had the money, could we too get a slice of the action?
Most established luxury advisors work on a recommendation basis, so you’d need more than just money to get an introduction. But, things are changing – newer companies are much less exclusive. And we’re seeing a change in the type of travelling experiences people want too: they might fly EasyJet for example, but then splash out on a six-figure villa.

Okay, so let’s talk commerce – how much are we talking for your level of service?
We design bespoke itineraries that start at £1,000. Or, we could book you into an off-the-grid wellness retreat in the Utah desert – costs start at a very reasonable £1,000 per night, but these are places that aren’t advertised; so regardless of money, you’ll need our connections if you want to stay there. If food is your thing, we could do a weekend wine and diamonds yacht tour around Southern Italy starting around £8,000. Or, we’ve just booked a client in for a four-night stay in the Maldives at a private island for around £66,000 a night.

Ok, looks like we’ll be staying in London, any hotels you can recommend for fun?
The Morgan Hotel Group is well equipped. I’ve walked into Sanderson suites with silver platters set up on tables for ‘guests when they’re entertaining’.

In your opinion, if you have the money to pay for it – is anything possible?
Yes, absolutely. Where there’s money and a will, there’s a way. But great contacts are priceless. And that’s where we come in.

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